Solidarity Magazine » New Labour Fri, 01 Mar 2013 19:29:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 “Shadow Minister fails to catch mood of the conference” Wed, 06 Apr 2011 14:37:48 +0000 Continue reading ]]> From UNISON Active

Following Dave Prentis’ rallying of health delegates to the National Health conference, there was a rousing demo on the concourse outside the Echo Arena. Speakers from across Europe pledged solidarity in the fight to defend public services and public sector workers.

It was such a disappointment that such euphoria created by the huge demo on 26th March, Dave’s call to arms, and a buzzing rally should be dampened by lame and lukewarm response by the shadow Health Secretary, John Healey. His speech merely poured cold water on the optimism and confidence of delegates.

Healey’s address was peppered with praise for New Labour’s failed policies of the past. He said he was proud that Labour had created Foundation Trusts who were freed from central control. There was no apology for the burden of PFI debt placed on the health economy and he believed it was a real achievement of the last government in opening up health to competition from the private sector.

Even during the Q&A session Healey failed to give any commitment to reversing the attacks on the NHS.

Delegates although polite throughout were clearly feeling uncomfortable about the future of the service if John Healey becomes secretary of state for health.

What is clear is, that if UNISON defeats the ConDem government’s plans for the NHS the next fight will be to convince Labour that there is no room for the free market in our NHS.

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CWU response to Mandelson Tue, 16 Dec 2008 18:00:48 +0000 Continue reading ]]> CWU Responds to Mandelson

16th December 2008

Billy Hayes, general secretary, said: “It is incredible that the British Government which has lead the world in overhauling banks need another European postal service to rescue the Royal Mail. Especially one which has already been disgraced by losing sensitive data disks in the mail.

“This was meant to be a report about competition but Mandelson has ignored the damage done through irresponsible liberalisation and advocates more involvement by private companies.

“We welcome the move to Ofcom which recognises both changes in the communications sector and the failings of Postcomm to manage the mail market effectively, however we look forward to receiving more information on future regulation.”

Dave Ward, deputy general secretary, said: “There is no need to seek private funding from outside companies in a joint venture. This would open the floodgates for full-blown, damaging privatisation. Post is a key public and business service which must retain the protection and guidance of Government for sustainable success.

“We welcome the fact that our campaign to get the Government to secure Royal Mail workers’ pensions has been successful. The news that the USO has been safeguarded is also very welcome.

“We will be studying the detail of the report closely over the coming weeks and will respond fully in the New Year.”

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Farewell to a free NHS Wed, 02 Jul 2008 16:49:56 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Allyson Pollock says:

Read the small print: Lord Darzi’s report pave the way for Labour to charge for NHS care.

Lord Darzi, the unelected health minister, has signalled that Labour will continue to dismantle and privatise the NHS delivery system, its staff and services – handing taxpayers’ funds to multinational companies, and remodelling the service along the lines of US healthcare.

It is all a far cry from their 1997 manifesto pledge: “Our fundamental purpose is simple but hugely important: to restore the NHS as a public service working cooperatively for patients not a commercial business driven by competition.”

Markets introduce new costs that do not occur in integrated public services: billing, invoicing, marketing and profits. All these divert resources and funds away from the service, creating enormous inefficiency. So what is the government up to?

Darzi provides the clearest sign yet that Labour is planning to introduce charges for healthcare, crossing the final rubicon of NHS privatisation – its funding base.

The commercial sector, unlike NHS public services, has market freedoms that the public sector does not – the freedom to levy charges and restrict care, and to downgrade or deregulate staff terms and conditions. The commercial sector’s first duty is to shareholders and risks must be managed either by reducing staff wages and terms, cherrypicking profitable patients and treatments, or by ensuring that it is not faced with the enormous costs of unpredictable care.

Co-payments and top-up insurance were alien terms a decade ago: they are direct imports from the US healthcare industry. Today they trip off ministers’ tongues. Contrast this with the NHS Plan 2000, which stated that “user charges are unfair and inequitable in they increase the proportion of funding from the unhealthy, old and poor compared with the healthy, young and wealthy.”

In theory, government cannot prevent the private sector from selling health insurance and top up services. In practice, the new providers of healthcare have seen the political unacceptability of introducing charges too early, although the boundaries between what is public and what is private are blurred.

So the Darzi report, instead of renouncing charges, paves the way for them. First, it trails the idea of a NHS constitution which will set out rights for care. In doing so it introduces the notion that there will no longer be NHS open-ended care according to need, following in the footsteps of NHS dentistry and long term care. The constitution reflects the current attempt to redefine NHS care into a basic minimum package. For example, in the newly privatised general practice agreements, the government has fragmented previously integrated services into core, additional and enhanced services. It has ended the open ended duty of care, and introduced the notion of time limits and defined entitlement. How long before the government allows the commercial sector to define a basic package of NHS care, beyond which everything else is paid for and charged for through top ups and co-payments? That, after all, is the American way.

The report also proposes introducing personal budgets. There is no logic to these because individual budgets pass risk down to the patient. But the idea, of a sort of portable voucher system, is a Republican one: patients can get so much care and top up and carry the risks.

Darzi does not renounce charges: “We will ensure that the programme fully supports the principles of the NHS as a comprehensive service, free at the point of use,” he says. But this contrasts with the 1977 NHS Act, which says “services so provided shall be free of charge except in so far as the making and recovery of charges is expressly provided for by or under any enactment, whenever passed.”

Labour has crossed its final Rubicon. The NHS Plan 2000 allowed the break-up and commercialisation of NHS services because the government claimed it didn’t matter how services were delivered so long as they were publicly funded. Now tax-based funding is to be undermined, and that means an end to universal coverage.

Universal coverage is not discussed by Darzi, and nor is equitable redistribution on the basis of need. Instead most of his report is dedicated to quality. This is the American way. The US jusitifies the denial of care to 50 million of its people by focusing attention on quality of providers, not access or response to need.

The problem for the government is that no country has a for-profit sector delivering universal healthcare, and it has no evidence to support the policy of a market in healthcare. The Darzi report is simply a glib advertising campaign on behalf of the healthcare industry and a new generation of greedy healthcare entrepreneurs. What of the losers? The hidden hand of the market renders invisible the old, the poor, the chronically sick and the long-term disabled. But as the winners see their FTSE100 stocks rise, the English will know what it is not to have freedom from fear.


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Stealing Union Money Wed, 16 Apr 2008 20:50:13 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Sooner or later some wag with a sense of the satirical is bound to call Gordon Brown Mr Sure Touch. The man has done it again. As if he didn’t have enough on his plate, the Guardian reports that he is supporting a proposal from Jack Straw (for a White Paper on Party Political funding) which would mean that the political fund money which comes from union members would go directly to New Labour HQ rather than to the unions.This would be akin to stealing our members’ money; taking away the right of the unions to determine how they use their own money.

GMB General Secretary Pat Kenny fired an angry shot across their bows.

“The government is going down the wrong road and taking the wrong direction. There is no way we are going to concede the right to allocate their cash to Gordon Brown and the party headquarters when not all our members support everything that the government is doing. Not all our members support the Labour party and they would not stand for their money being used in this way. They would want us to disaffiliate if the government insists on doing this.”

John McDonnell, Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington, said:

“This proposal will be opposed by MPs and rank-and-file members across the Labour party. It gives Labour party headquarters the right to take over control of all trade union money and is unacceptable.”

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Negotiating pay cuts – or how to throw Gordon Brown a lifeline Sat, 12 Apr 2008 14:43:53 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Gill George, Unite NEC member, reports on her blog that UNISON and RCN walked out on the other unions in negotiations over pay in the NHS. They appear to have reached their own deal with the Department of Health and the NHS employers. Karen Jennings, UNISON’s national officer is reported as saying that “we will be asking our executive to consider recommending this deal to members as a well-balanced package in the forthcoming consultation.”

This imparts a new meaning to “well-balanced”: a 2.75 increase this year (when inflation is at 4.1%), 2.4% the next year and 2.25% the year after. Far be it for me to say that UNISON leaders expect their members to rubber stamp such a “well balanced package” but the health service press has been reporting a deal already done. There is just the little problem that the union’s health conference has yet to meet to decide its view.

If the UNISON bureaucrats are able to push this through it will be a reflection of the level of demoralisation and weak organisation which exists amongst NHS staff. It is difficult to see any other rationale for recommending a three year pay cut than a to throw a lifeline to Gordon Brown, delivering ‘peace’ in the NHS in the run up to the next election.

Ironically, when Jennings and co are seeking to push through this pay cut, the three Health Ministers for Scotland, Wales and Northern ireland have issued a public condemnation of Westminster for failing to involve them in discussions over pay. Even more pointedly, they have issued a joint statement expressing their support for the NHS remaining firmly in the public sector (in contrast to brown’s privatisation agenda).

It says much for UNISON leaders that they have formed a bloc with the RCN, an elitist professional body, and turned their back on the other health service unions.

As Jon Rogers (a UNISON EC member) has pointed out, the difference between a ‘good’ deal and a ‘bad’ deal appears to be 0.3% The unions have rejected the 2.45% offered for local government workers and put in a claim for 6%. However, there is a potential sting in the tail. UNISON’s website says:

“The consultation will be carried out on the basis that – if members vote to reject the offer – they will need be prepared to take sustained and escalating strike action, starting with a two-day strike and escalating to more than two consecutive days of action, to get the employers back to the negotiating table.”

Whilst it is certainly true that one day strikes would be of little use, the bureaucrats’ position in relation to the NHS leads you to believe that they are hardly enthusiastic of giving their friend Gordon a problem by organising strike of local government workers. They are surely hoping that the response of members will be such that they can say “the members do not want action”. The wording of the statement is designed to frighten them and lead the more conservative of them (or those who don’t think the leadership is serious) to vote ‘no’. This is underlined by the fact that the offer is less than half of the claim. If they were serious about the claim they would have gone straight to a strike ballot.

This particular lifeline (should UNISON push through its recommendation to accept a three year pay cut) seems unlikely to deliver the goods to Gordon. If, as seems likely currently, New Labour is dumped at the next General Election, the Tories will have been gifted the opportunity of using Brown’s NHS privatisation agenda to step up attacks on Health workers. And UNISON, and the other unions’ failure to address the weakness of workplace organisation, and to mobilise their members against Brown’s neo-liberal programme, will be in a weak state for resisting the further attacks which will surely follow.

It must be hoped that UNISON’s health service conference next weak calls the leadership to order and votes against the three year deal. If the union’s recommendation to accept is put to the members then it can only reinforce the demoralisation and sense of powerlessness which undoubtedly exists amongst wide sections of staff.

Unite and some of the smaller profession based unions like the Society of Radiographers have rejected the three year offer, whilst the GMB has called a meeting of reps to consider it. But it is UNISON which has the big battalions (at least in terms of numbers) in the NHS. So long as UNISON places the interests of New Labour above those of their own members then those battalions will not be mobilised and the problem of workplace organisation, of collective organisation, rightly stressed by Gill George, will not be addressed.

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GMB reaction to the budget Thu, 13 Mar 2008 13:10:41 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Chancellor Misses Moral Target Of Making The Elite Pay The Same Rate Of Tax As Their Cleaners
12 Mar 2008

Paul Kenny, GMB General Secretary said:

“The Chancellor has bowed to pressure from the multi-millionaire elite who run the private equity and financial institutions to enable them to continue to receive income as capital gains. He has missed the moral target of making this buccaneering elite, whose recklessness is a contributory cause of the turbulence in the world’s credit markets and the trouble that it will visit on ordinary citizens, pay the same rate of tax on their income as their cleaners.

His approach to public services pay and to those on incapacity benefit is sharply different. He wants to hold down public sector pay below inflation. This attempt to cut living standards will be met with resistance and will undermine morale.
His requirement that those on incapacity benefit must attend work capability assessments is based on the false notion that the high levels of claimants in some areas is due to the fact that these people to not want work. He fails to see it for the labour market issue that it really is. In areas with high employment rates, like Berkshire, there are low rates of people on incapacity benefits, while in places with low employment rates, in the former industrial areas like South Wales, there are very high rates of people on incapacity benefits.

The Chancellor needs to face up to the fact that in today’s labour market able bodied and fully fit workers get jobs ahead of those who are disabled and those not fully fit. The unpalatable truth is that the problem lies with the lack demand from employers for these workers. Why does the Chancellor think GMB put up such a fight to stop the Government sacking 2,500 disabled Remploy workers as they close 30 factories? Most of these Remploy workers will never work again.”

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GMB Calls On Labour MPs To Support Private Member’s Bill Aimed At Giving New Rights To Agency Staff At Second Reading In The Commons On Friday 22nd February 2008 Thu, 21 Feb 2008 12:26:39 +0000 Continue reading ]]> GMB says that talks about setting up a Commission on this issue is ‘premature’ and is unlikely to succeed in bridging the gap between Unions and CBI
21 Feb 2008

GMB today called on MPs to support the private member’s Bill aimed at giving new rights to 1.4 million UK agency staff at second reading in the Commons tomorrow, Friday 22nd February 2008. The Bill has been introduced by Andrew Miller MP for Neston & Ellesmere Port and is expected to be supported by over 100 Labour MPs. The Bill would introduce into UK law the same employment rights for agency staff as those enjoyed by permanent, directly employed staff. It covers the same ground as the proposed European Directive which may be discussed at the EU Employment, Social and Consumer Affairs Council on the 29th February 2008.

It was reported in the media that the UK Government is proposing a Commission of inquiry Chaired by Sir George Bain to see if agreement can be reached between the Unions and the CBI on the issue. The CBI is opposed to any employment rights for agency staff for their first 12 months of employment. The trade union want the employment right to apply to agency staff from day one.

Paul Kenny, GMB General Secretary commenting on this report about a Commission said, “It is incredibly premature for the Government to be talking about setting up a Commission, with an independent chairman, to study the issue of agency workers’ rights.

What is being offered so far is a second-hand fairy tale, which certainly does not have a happy ending. If every other country in Europe is prepared to give agency workers rights, why should we have to put up with being second or third class citizens? The Government is trying to appease the business lobby.”

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Union anger over government nuclear decision Fri, 11 Jan 2008 13:27:45 +0000 Continue reading ]]> PCS Press release
11 Jan 2008

PCS has condemned the government’s decision, in the White paper Meeting the Energy Challenge, giving the green light to the private sector to build a new generation of new nuclear power stations.

The union accused the government of being determined to go ahead with nuclear regardless of the views of people in this country. The union maintained that the government played on people’s fears about climate change to get the response it wanted to a consultation on nuclear that was so biased and misleading that green groups such as Greenpeace and Friend’s of the Earth felt they had no choice but to pull out.

The union went on to argue that the government should be taking tough decisions on carbon emissions and looking at a combination of energy saving, renewables and clean coal technologies that would provide new, safe jobs as well as protecting the environment and tackling climate change.

PCS is deeply concerned by the small print in the White Paper that reveals the get out clause for the private sector. Despite assurances that private companies will also be responsible for decommissioning and waste disposal the government is offering, in the last resort, to bail them out which means that UK workers will ultimately be liable for these costs.

Commenting on the announcement, PCS assistant general secretary Chris Baugh said: “Not only have the government, in an deplorably anti-democratic move, fixed a public consultation to get the answer they want on the future of nuclear, they are also playing on people’s fears about climate change to get us to believe there is no alternative to going down the nuclear road. This is yesterday’s legacy not today’s answer to our energy needs which should be to invest in renewables and create new, clean jobs that would also help us in tackling climate change.”

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Union betrayed by New Labour Fri, 11 Jan 2008 13:09:56 +0000 Continue reading ]]> POA press release January 7th 2008 

Leaders of the POA have reacted angrily to the statement made by the Rt. Hon. Minister for State Jack Straw to reintroduce legislation that will criminalise its members for taking industrial action.

Mr Straw said that he was reluctantly putting in place safeguards to ensure the safety of prisons and the public following the decision of the POA to withdraw from the JIRPA in May this year, an agreement which prevented Prison Officers from disrupting the Prison Service.

In effect New Labour are reintroducing anti trades union legislation, legislation they vehemently opposed when in opposition and legislation they PROMISED to repeal to the POA leadership.

Colin Moses National Chairman of the POA said,

“This is a sad day for the Trades Union movement. Workers are being blackmailed to sign away their rights by a Labour Government. A Government which has broken promise after promise to this union and a Government that has forgotten its roots. This union has had two agreements and both have failed not because of the workers or this union but because of the mismanagement of those agreements by the employer supported by the Government. When this anti trade union legislation was introduced, compensatory measures had to be put in place. Unfortunately, those measures have failed the workers of the Prison Service and we now need to have our rights as workers restored. Jack said, what new money is available for 2009, what about 2007 and 2008. Are we as public sector workers to be treated as second class citizens, used as bargaining chips to manage the economy and of course used as punch bags by those we look after. This union is owed 6 million pounds in TOIL, it is owed pay from 2001 and 2007 and it deserves to be treated fairly and decently. Promises and Platitudes do nothing for the workers of this Country and nothing for my members”.

Brian Caton General Secretary of the POA said,

“Nothing surprises me with the New Labour party. The Government may believe that they can bully and threaten my members but they cannot. If they believe that threatening POA members with imprisonment is a step forward for industrial relations they are sadly wrong. This union like every union should be treated with respect and trust. The POA only react when no one listens, when the employer and government resort to the Courts to manage the Service and of course when promises are broken. We will be calling all public sector workers to unite against this reserved legislation, maybe the Government have underestimated the support of the worker and fallout that will arise if they continue to attack the Trades Union movement.

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Green paper falls short on council housing Tue, 24 Jul 2007 10:24:34 +0000 Continue reading ]]> The Housing Green Paper published today falls a long way short of meeting the expectations of supporters of council housing and the five tests agreed at the Defend Council Housing conference on July 12 (see DCH policy statement). In the face of pressure from a formidable alliance of council tenants, trade unions, councillors and MPs government is still trying to wriggle to avoid conceding the ‘Fourth Option’ of direct investment in decent, affordable, secure and accountable council housing.

The government’s core strategy for providing new homes relies on the private sector (including Registered Social Landlords). The private sector has failed up to now to provide the homes we need and there is no indication they will do any better in the future.

Alan Walter, Defend Council Housing chair, said after listening to Yvette Cooper speaking to the Green Paper in Parliament:

“The fact is that direct investment in decent, affordable, secure and accountable council housing is the cheapest and quickest way to address housing need today. The private sector alternatives cost more – eating up a higher than ever level of households income, are less secure and are totally unaccountable. That’s why so many people value a council tenancy over the alternatives”

“Despite all the hype about home ownership demand for council housing is high. Instead of goading local authorities into public private partnerships the government should listen to the people and enable local authorities to improve existing and build new council homes themselves.”

“We need investment to provide first class council housing – not councils providing public land to subsidise home ownership to satisfy government’s dogmatic obsessions.”

“Improve existing and build new first class council homes and then local authorities would be able open up their allocation policies once again turning council estates back into the mixed communities they used to be”

Pressures from supporters of council housing have got Ministers to address some of the key issues we have raised. The Green Paper discusses reforms to council Housing Revenue Accounts allowing councils to retain all the income from tenants’ rents and capital receipts and formally talks about allowing councils to build new council homes. But, at first reading, this seems to be largely limited to pilot schemes and councils setting up a ‘local authority company’ which are unacceptable restrictions.

The Green Paper does show that Ministers no longer believe they can hold the dogmatic line they have been defending up to now. Supporters of council housing will take advantage of the discussion around the Green Paper to convince Ministers that demonstrable support for investment in council housing and real choice for council tenants means that government has to provide the ‘Fourth Option’ of direct investment in council housing “as a matter of urgency”.

Gordon Brown, in his statement to Parliament on July 11, referred back to the last two major house building programmes in the ‘inter war years’ and after the 1950s. On both occasions there was a cross party consensus that providing homes for the people couldn’t be left to the private sector. All our experience suggests that the same logic should apply today.

Years of disinvestment in council housing has left many estates in urgent need of improvements and the shortage of council housing has led to local authorities restricting access to council homes to only those in most desperate need. Alongside problems directly associated with cheap design and building methods on some estates constructed in the 60s and 70s has created a range of financial and social issues.

But carrying out improvements and expanding the number of council homes available would allow councils to once again offer tenancies to the wide range of people on council housing waiting lists creating the ‘mixed communities’ government says it wants without requiring people to take on the financial burden of a mortgage beyond their means.

It is positive that government has recognised its responsibility to provide a lasting solution to the housing crisis. But the Green Paper mistakenly places the major responsibility on the private sector (including Registered Social Landlords). They have failed to provide up to now the homes that millions of people need – there is no reason to believe that they will do it now. They are sitting on land banks, surpluses (derived from public subsidies in the case of Registered Social Landlords) and in some cases planning permission but still don’t deliver!

The housing that the private sector does provide is more expensive (taking up an ever increasing proportion of household income) and less secure that council housing and they are also totally unaccountable. Through a process of mergers and takeovers the Registered Social Landlord sector is now dominated by multi million pound companies operating across dozens of local authority boundaries. Some are already lobbying for the right to float on the stock market.

Together this makes the argument for investment in ‘decent, affordable, secure and accountable’ council housing overwhelming.

Local authorities are ideally placed to improve and build new council housing themselves to provide decent, affordable, secure and accountable homes. They should not be required to gift or sell off on the cheep valuable public land to subsidise developments that will be dominated by private housing.

1.6 million households on council housing waiting lists demonstrates strong demand for first class public housing and many local authorities want to get on with the job of improving existing and building new council homes.

Nearly 3 million existing council tenants along with 1.63 million households on council housing waiting lists want the ‘Fourth Option’ of direct investment to improve existing, build new and maintain all council housing as first class housing.

Our campaign is backed up by the TUC, most trade unions and significant numbers of MPs and councillors from all parties.

The alliance of tenants, trade unions, councillors and MPs will be stepping up our campaign over the summer to ‘persuade’ government to implement the ‘Fourth Option’. The issue is expected to be a key debate at the TUC with most unions now affiliated to the campaign. The last three Labour Party conferences have backed the ‘Fourth Option’ (see Composite 10, 2006 Labour Party conference) and it is likely to be back on the agenda at Gordon Brown’s first conference as Prime Minister.Further information

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